Benefits Offices Are Testing New Ways to Provide Language Services

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<p>Having appropriate language services available for patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) can greatly improve health care experiences. State and local benefits offices that administer Medicaid, the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and other benefit programs are especially important, since they are often the first point of contact for LEP clients.<br><br>The new Commonwealth Fund report, <a href="/cnlib/pub/enews_clickthrough.htm?enews_item_id=26359&return_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecmwf%2Eorg%2Fpublications%2Fpublications%5Fshow%2Ehtm%3Fdoc%5Fid%3D444660%26%23doc444660">Providing Language Services in State and Local Health-Related Benefits Offices: Examples from the Field</a>, outlines an eight-step approach to helping benefits offices develop language strategies tailored to their clients' specific needs. Mara Youdelman, J.D., L.L.M., Jane Perkins, J.D., M.P.H., and coauthors at the National Health Law Program illustrate each step with promising practices in place throughout the country, such as:<ul><li>The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's outreach program, which designates caseworkers to conduct eligibility interviews at community-based organizations assisting refugees. When the date for renewal of benefits approaches, the department sends notices both to the client and the local community-based organization, which help contact clients in their preferred language.</li><br><li>Washington's statewide interpreter assessment program, which requires candidates who want to work as interpreters for social and health services programs to pass a state certification test. The department reports costs for interpreters to the federal government, which reimburses the state at a matching rate of 50 percent for language services provided to Medicaid and SCHIP clients.</ul><br>The report also includes dozens of sample forms, protocols, and other documents used by various states. For those who wish to learn more, detailed contact information is provided for each site.</p>